California Democrat introduces bill to switch Point Reyes National Seashore priority from public enjoyment to industrial agriculture

Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA, 2nd Dist.) has joined Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), notable anti-wildlife anti-public lands radical, to make dairies the goal of the national seashore where they exist inside this popular unit of the National Parks System.

Point Reyes National Seashore, CA –  This week, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA, 2nd Dist.) joined Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to introduced a bill that would fundamentally reverse National Park Service management of Point Reyes National Seashore to prioritize the livestock industry over public uses and interests. The bill, H. R. 6687, would redirect the Secretary of the Interior to manage the National Seashore “to maintain working dairies and ranches on agricultural property as part of the seashore’s unique historic, cultural, scenic and natural values, and for other purposes” instead of prioritizing management of these lands for public recreation and benefit.

Rep. Bishop is a founder of the Federal Lands Action Group, a caucus of extreme-right politicians in Congress seeking to eliminate federal public lands by turning them over to the states. He led efforts to eliminate Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, and introduced a Utah Public Lands Initiative bill that ultimately died after it was roundly condemned by conservationists for its giveaways to the fossil fuel and agriculture industries.

“It’s shocking that Rep. Huffman would team up with anti-public lands zealot Rob Bishop to undermine the public planning process already underway at Point Reyes, hand these public lands over to ranch and dairy operations that have already been paid to get off the Park, and turn a blind eye to the ecological damage this land use is doing to this special place,” said Chance Cutrano, Director of Strategy at Resource Renewal Institute “This brazen scheme to transfer control of National Park lands to the livestock industry would make Cliven Bundy proud.”

Huffman and Bishop’s proposed rewrite of the enabling legislation undermines the original intention of Congressional creators of Point Reyes to buy-out and phase out ranching upon the expiration of the historic leases. 

“This is a completely dishonest piece of legislation because Congress never intended to maintain commercial agriculture on Point Reyes National Seashore indefinitely,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “The original legislation provided for the buy-out and eventual transition of ranching to natural, native ecosystems on Point Reyes, and instead of managing these public lands ‘consistent with Congress’ longstanding intent,’ Rep. Huffman fully intends to reverse this by making fundamental changes to the law.” 

The original Point Reyes legislation, passed in 1962, authorized the buy-out of all commercial beef and dairy ranches on Point Reyes, and ordered the new National Seashore to be managed “[i]n order to save and preserve, for purposes of public recreation, benefit, and inspiration, a portion of the diminishing seashore of the United States that remains undeveloped.” This legislation further specified that Point Reyes would be managed under the terms of the National Park Service organic act. After the lands were purchased, Congress generously allowed the ranchers to stay on the lands they had sold to create the National Seashore for the lifetime of the original ranchers. In 1978, supplemental legislation further extended the leasing of Park Service lands to ranchers for terms specified to last no more than 25 years.

Representative Huffman’s bill is a cynical attempt to throw a wrench into this open and democratic process for the benefit of a tiny special interest group of dairy ranchers who have long enjoyed such preferential treatment as below-market land leases, taxpayer-supported services and exemptions from environmental requirements,’” said Deborah Moskowitz, President of Resource Renewal Institute. “It threatens and undermines the very purpose of our National Parks ‘to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

The bill orders the Park Service to eliminate herds of native Tule elk that have become established on Park Service lands where ranching and dairy operations occur. The legislation states, “In areas of agricultural property where Tule Elk present conflicts with working ranches or dairies, the Secretary shall manage the Tule Elk to ensure separation from the working ranches or dairies.” 

“Tule elk are native to the original coastal grasslands of Point Reyes, and when abandoned ranches have turned over to Tule elk, the land heals and the native vegetation returns,” said Huey Johnson, Founder and Chair of Resource Renewal Institute. “Tule elk are extremely rare and they belong on Point Reyes, whereas cattle are a non-native, species that has no place in a native coastal grassland, and in fact converts healthy native plant communities to invasive weeds.”

The bill also circumvents the public process for the new General Management Plan currently under development at Point Reyes National Seashore, which is required by judicial order. This General Management Plan requires public input, must take a hard look at the ecological impacts of various land uses (including a number of severe impacts from commercial agriculture), and must consider a range of alternatives, including phasing out commercial agriculture. The bill’s language requiring the agency to issue 20-year permits to the ranchers at Point Reyes National Seashore ignores the broad public interest in protecting the lands for native wildlife, including Tule elk, and thwarts the opportunity for the Park Service to consider a range of management alternatives.

“Visitors come to Point Reyes seeking a wild part of the coastline of California, in order to view wildlife, walk on sand beaches, and tour dramatic ocean cliffs unhindered by private property and development, said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “They do not come here to see herds of cattle on overgrazed weed plots. The public needs to be included in decisions made about this National Park unit gem.” 

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This story is based on a news release by the Western Watersheds Project and the Resource Renewal Institute


  1. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine


  2. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Well I certainly hope the “Secretary” has a better plan for the Tule elk than 2012 – 2014, when more than 250 died from lack of access to water by being fenced in (separation).

    I don’t think this will go over well in CA at all.

  3. jack kenney Avatar
    jack kenney

    The lease was just over, and despite that the department of interior actually renewed it. what a low. I cannot believe that the cattle are still there, they should be removed from the park permenantly.

  4. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    “Gov. Jerry Brown proposes easing logging rules to thin forests”:

  5. Cynthia Hills Avatar
    Cynthia Hills

    They have had almost 50 years to get the livestock out of the park. Why are they still there and why would anyone want dairies and ranches in a National Park? Dairies are among the most dirty agricultural industries. I can understand this coming from a right wing Republican, but a Democrat? It is past time to quit stalling and remove the agriculture and all its accoutrements from the park.

  6. Bruce Bowen Avatar
    Bruce Bowen

    There is an old Greek proverb that says “if you walk with lame men, you also will develop a limp”. This is a metaphor for contagious moral hypocrisy.

    In seeking power the Democrats have attempted to out do the Republicans at their own game. In order to give a certain organized group of agricultural businessmen what they want it has become more common place to have the public sector finance private enterprise/profit. Witness the 94% discount given to stockmen that graze cows on BLM managed range. These lessees do not deserve that kind of subsidy but they have been getting it for years and years.

    During the Reagan/Watt period, Department of Interior employees were told that they had no business enforcing the spirit of the law and that if they wanted to keep their jobs they must consider only the letter of the law. EG: The Taylor Grazing act was passed to keep public lands from deteriorating from overgrazing by livestock and states that the grazing fee for forage calculated in “animal unit months” must be no lower than $1.35 per AUM. It was in the spirit of the law that this legislation was to have the grazing fee keep pace with the average private rate of increase in the economy. Congress responded by thinking in terms of the letter of the law and has kept grazing fees as near to the stated $1.35/AUM for years even though this represents over a 90% discount. This policy is not fair to the tax payer or to livestock growers that must rent pasturage at the going private rate (which happens to be $22.50/AUM currently here in Montana).

    The principle writers on this site make some very good scientific arguments for the preservation of public land but our dilemma goes deeper. It extends into the moral and spiritual realm. The following words from Black Elk (Lakota) are as true today as they were 80 years ago.

    “Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four- leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us. But the Wasichus (whitemen) came, and they have made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller, for around them surges the gnawing flood of the Wasichu; and it is dirty with lies and greed”.

    Truly, it seems that our current form of government is little more than an organized hypocrisy.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan